Students have more time for swings, monkey bars and outdoor games at four Texas elementary schools that have adopted a Finnish model structured around four short recess periods each day.
Debbie Rhea, associate dean of research and health sciences at Texas Christian University, created the college’s Let’s Inspire Innovation ’N Kids (LiiNK) program in 2013 after studying Finland’s education system, which consistently scores near the top in international school rankings. In 2015-16, she began a three-year pilot in elementary schools in two Fort Worth-area districts, with plans to expand to at least two more schools in the fall.
In Finland, every hour of instruction is typically followed by 15 minutes of recess. “It’s a very different mindset—they believe active time is where we gain a lot of our learning,” Rhea says. “Recess is good for all kids—it changes their ability to learn, be creative, problem-solve and get stronger physically and mentally.”
Multiple studies affirm the importance of play in children’s physical and mental health. Physical activity boosts language development and improves academic skills and classroom behaviors, Rhea says.
Did you hear?
A school would need to devote just 7.5% of instructional time to physical fitness to help students spend the recommended 30 minutes of the school day engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity. Source: Pediatrics
The LiiNK team provides a semester of training and scheduling guidance to the four pilot schools adopting the program. Students get four 15-minute unstructured recesses each day. On three days a week, they also spend 15 minutes on character curriculum, which includes lessons about empathy and problem-solving.
Early positive results
Eagle Mountain Elementary School of the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD in Fort Worth launched LiiNK in fall 2015 for kindergarten and first-grade students, and plans to add a grade each upcoming year. “Kids are not hardwired to sit all day long,” says Eagle Mountain Principal Bryan McLain. “This helps give kids back their childhood.”